Now in its fourth year, Legacy Day in Chestertown has become one of the town’s signature events. Organized by the Historical Society of Kent County with numerous local sponsors, this year’s Legacy Day honored African-American teachers and celebrated Kent County’s African-American history and culture.
Saturday night, August 19, the block of High Street facing Fountain Park was closed to traffic – and open to dancing to the sounds of Soulfied Village, a nine-member Centreville-based band, and to records spun by DJ Stansbury.
Across the street from the park, the Kent County Historical Society’s Bordley Center was open for visitors to view displays honoring the African-American teachers and educators in the county’s schools during the segregation era. The exhibit will remain open for several weeks. The window display alone is worth stopping by for. Some thirty of the teachers and family members featured in the exhibit were in attendance – some from as far away as Georgia.
Saturday’s events began with a genealogy workshop, led by Jeanette Sherbondy and Amanda Tuttle-Smith of the Historical Society, at Kent County Public Library. A luncheon for the teachers took place at Janes United Methodist Church, followed by a public concert by the men’s choir of Janes Church.
The evening’s Legacy Day celebration began with a parade down High Street. Lauretta Freeman, the Legacy Day Grand Marshal, led the parade in a vintage Buick convertible. The remainder of the teachers, appropriately riding in a school bus, followed close behind. They dismounted to take their place of honor opposite the bandstand.
Tolliver, himself a former teacher, announced each teacher’s name and subject or grade taught. And each name was received with applause and cheers from the audience, many of whom remembered these teachers from their own school days.
As the rest of the parade rolled by, Tolliver introduced the various entries – from classic cars to marching units to dancing groups – with wit and style. And then Soulfied Village took over and the evening’s festivities began in earnest.
A number of service organizations were on hand to provide food and drinks for the large crowd. Offerings included barbecue ribs, fried fish, hot dogs and hamburgers. The Historical Society teamed up with the Garfield Center for beer and wine sales.The Garfield Center for the Arts and the Kent County Democrats each had a booth.
Other venders were set up in Fountain Park, interspersed with families picnicking and enjoying the seasonable weather. The Kent County Democrats had a voter registration booth, and artists Alan Johnson and Samuel Moore had a joint exhibit. Other venders offered toys, jewelry, clothing – even cupcakes.
As with previous Legacy Day celebrations, the atmosphere was congenial and celebratory, which, a week after Charlottesville, gives hope for the future. There were no disturbances. The crowd, estimated at over a thousand, was diverse in all aspects – all races, all ages – from infants to grandparents, from all walks of life, some in jeans and t-shirts, some dressed up, all having a good time, dancing, talking, eating, and just enjoying the evening.
The festivities continued till 10 p.m., when the band concluded its last set and packed up just before a brief shower moved in.
Legacy Day 2017 was sponsored by the Historical Society of Kent County, in partnership with the Hedgelawn Foundation, Garfield Center for the Arts, C. V. Starr Center, Kent County Arts Council, and Music in the Park, a program of the Town of Chestertown, along with a host of other contributors. Now we look forward to Legacy Day 2018!
Photo Gallery below. Photography by Peter Heck and Jane Jewell
Legacy Day 2017 – In the Park and on the Street
Music All Evening